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The origin of this name is disputable, the fact that it is borne by a family long established in Co. Kerry and not found indigenous elsewhere is not
in dispute. Dr. John O'Brien, writing in 1768, said that they were of the same stock as the MacCarthys. Another source states that they descend from a Scotsman called MacLeod who in 1295 acquired lands in Co. Kerry by his marriage to the heiress of Maurice, and that the name MacLeod passed through various stages such as MacAlliod and MacEllgott eventually became MacElligott. Mac Uileogéid as the Gaelic form, derived from Wilecot (i.e. little Ulick, a double diminutive of William). Ballymacelligot, near Tralee, is named from them and since the sixteenth century have been prominent residents of north Kerry. It is said that they were a Cambro-Norman family first called FitzElias. As such they were in Kerry from the middle of the thirteenth century.. The surname FitzElyoth, which appeared in Kerry in 1455, represents a transitional form and the tendency was for Fitz to be changed to Mac. The FitzElias family was associated with the same area as were the MacElligotts at a later date. There were 103 families called Mac~lligott in Kerry in 1901, few elsewhere.
Probably the most distinguished of the name was Col. Roger MacElligott (c. 1650-1701) - spelt MacEllicott in King James's army list. Rev. James Elligott, procurator of Cloyne, was a member of the Provincial Synod of Cashel in 1685. A generation earlier (1657) the MacElligotts are mentioned in a state paper as one of the Munster families "plotting for trouble"; and in the previous century they are a recognized Irish sept, for Thomas Mac MacKelgot "slain in rebellion" is called "chief of his nation."